As the world grapples with unprecedented challenges posed by the COVID-19 pandemic, young people are demonstrating their continued leadership in their communities. The world is facing an unprecedented challenge. What started as a health problem is now affecting agriculture, education, work, businesses, and the wider economy. It touches us as individuals, families, communities, and wider society – right across the globe. While urgent and decisive action is required, the ramifications of this crisis are likely to be felt for many years to come.
We must recognise that interventions that focus on young people are most effective when young people are involved in the decision-making about said interventions that affect their lives.
Young people need to be mobilized to participate at this time as partners and not just beneficiaries. They must be included in discussions that concern the fight against this pandemic so that they are able to offer their ideas and draw learnings for future reference right from the design, implementation, monitoring and evaluation of the programs, policies and interventions that affect them.
Apparently, youth participation is reported to occur more often in civil society coordination spaces, yet young people drive social change when they are empowered with the skills and resources to participate as leaders in their communities.
When young people participate as leaders in the programs and other interventions, they are enabled to initiate and direct their own interventions.
Since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, youth under the National Youth Advocacy Platform (NYAP) in Uganda, have made crucial contributions to the COVID-19 response, including the following:
- Tackling misinformation on COVID-19
- Using Social Media to spread accurate information
- Community Sensitization and awareness
- Advocacy and accountability.
- Delivering services e.g. through Provision of Liquid Soap to Fight COVID-19 in some communities
- Ensuring the most vulnerable are not left behind
- Participatory community-based research.
- Volunteering in the distribution of food stuff in Kampala and Wakiso.
Despite all this, young people are often excluded from decision-making spaces related to the distribution of (or access to) the resources necessary to design, implement and monitor interventions focused on, or which have an impact on youth. That is why young people must be supported to:
- Organize into networks of affected populations.
- Strengthen their capacity to mobilize and advocate but also
- Manage resources and
- Establish periodic monitoring and evaluation and other accountability mechanisms.
There is no doubt that young people are affected by the pandemic’s socio-economic impacts. Nevertheless, youth are also among the most active in national and perhaps global responses: Not only are they on the frontline as health workers, but they are also advancing health and safety in their roles as researchers, activists, innovators, and communicators. This only becomes a point to ponder on for the decision-makers to ensure that they commit to ensuring youth voices are part of the solutions for a healthier, safer, and gender-equal Uganda, Africa and the World at large.
As someone who advocates for the youth, here are some proposals of how African governments can fight COVID 19:
- African leaders should galvanize resources to upgrade her key sectors to improve the lives of citizens.
- All stakeholders should bear in mind that youth can make a breakthrough and as such must be empowered to take charge in driving Africa to greatness.
- For Africa to grow and make progress, it requires the unanimous frameworks of the youth. The youth must wake up and get involved in the process of transformation of Africa.
- Africans must start believing in themselves and the change they can bring about. We must believe in our experts and professionals in all spheres of life.
It is thus my humble view that governments recognize young people’s creativity, their potential, and the capacity to make change happen for themselves, for their communities, and for the rest of the world.
AUTHOR: James Cleto Mumbere, Coordinator of the National Youth Advocacy Platform (NYAP) – Uganda; Policy and Advocacy Department Community Integrated Development Initiatives (CIDI).